Growing Up Too Fast

January 1, 2008
When you look into the bedroom from the hallway, the first thing you notice is that every available space is filled. Not with one thing in particular, but with small knick-knacks that the owner found valuable. There is so much to look at, all begging to be seen and admired; you cannot just glance around and leave, closing the door. An invisible force pulls you into the room, shows you the remnants of someone’s life.
It is clearly a girl’s bedroom, but not a little girl. A girl old enough to take care of herself, a teenager, maybe sixteen or seventeen. There are no pictures of cute actors, though. Not one. There are no photographs, but for one. Instead, one corner is filled with comic strips cut out of newspapers. There are funny ads pulled from magazines. A classic car calendar. The month is October; the picture is of a 1966 Ford Mustang. The month is the first sign of neglect. For it is already February of the next year. Four months have gone by since the girl changed her calendar.
The day bed is neatly made, with pillows arranged carelessly on the end. A lamp is fitted into the corner between the head of the bed and the wall. The once bright white comforter is dulled to a cream color with age. The pillows are an array of colors and shape. They look homemade and a sewing machine sitting on one desk shows who made them. A window looks out towards the road with a backdrop of mountains soaring towards the heavy, gray sky. Snow blankets the earth, setting a dismal mood. There is nothing to see outside; you turn back to the bedroom.
At the foot of the bed, a small desk is wedged into the space between the bed and the closet. A closed laptop computer gathers dust and lets off an electronic buzz. Speakers sit on either side, a plastic frog taped on the top of one; a stuffed monkey on the other. You gently stroke the brown fur of its head. In between the speakers, in a narrow holder, diaries and day planners sit open to a date in October. On the wall above the desk is a shelf covered in paraphernalia. A porcelain clown holding wooden balloons, an empty bottle of perfume, seashells, and rocks. Hanging from the bars below the shelf is an assortment of angels, necklaces, and a corsage. The white roses on the baby-blue corsage are withered, the fresh scent only a memory.
An armoire with a full length mirror stands against the wall across from the bed. The door hangs open a crack and you peek in. Skirts, blouses, and a few dresses that wouldn’t fit into the closet are hanging from a single bar. On the floor of the wardrobe are sweaters that can’t be hung up for fear of wearing out the shoulders. In the corner is a mesh bag holding three books. Pulling out the first one, you see on the front is written, “Cherry’s Diary! Keep out! That means you!” in childish scrawl. Smiley faces and drawings of flowers adorn the inside cover.

Sunday, January 2, 2000
9:26 am

Dear Diary,
My name is Cherry LeAnn Concannon, and I am eight and a half years old. My mom gave you to me for Christmas. My dad gave me a pink, fuzzy pen with a butterfly at the top. I am using it to write today. I have to go back to school next week, but this week, me and my best friend, Alec Daniels, are going to the church camp. The camp is just for kids our age. Alec (not Alex) is almost ten, but he is in the same class in school with me. We have Mrs. Jackson for our teacher this year. I don’t like her very much. She says that I have bad manners, and that I talk too much. Alec makes funny faces at her, and he only got caught one time. I can’t wait until next year. I’ll be in fourth grade and my mom will be my teacher. Only she says that I can’t call her mom, I have to call her Mrs. Concannon.
Uh-oh. Mrs. Concannon wants me to clean my room. Then, I have to eat dinner. Then, we will watch a movie. Then, I will go to bed. Mom and Dad got me a day bed for Christmas too. It’s really cool. And Grandma gave me a pretty white comforter with FEATHERS in it! Isn’t that great? I will try to write tomorrow, diary. Love, Cherry LeAnn Concannon the Greatest!!!

You laugh at the childish writing and gently place the book back into its bag. You hide it in the far corner of the armoire and close the door all the way.
Turning towards the back wall, your eyes fall on the only piece of furniture in that part of the room: a large desk with a green plastic top. Looking closely, you see splotches of nail polish in shades of pink, blue, and glitter. Pencil doodles, notes, some algebraic equations, and many colorful versions of, “I hate green!” are written across the expanse. The sewing machine sits in the corner, blue thread still on the spool. You flick the switch, but the light bulb is burnt out. The drawers and main body of the desk are painted a flat white, but chips of the paint have flaked off, and there are slices of wood showing through. As you open the top, center drawer, spools of thread and needles roll around. Wedged tightly inside is a pair of jeans. A needle is attached to the back pocket by a string of red embroidery thread. The unfinished cross-stitch reads “Cherry + Alec.” The heart surrounding the words is only half finished. You fold the pants back into the drawer and slowly force it shut.
Turning back towards the door, you see the last piece of furniture; a dresser rests between the closet and the open door. A cloth disguises the bare wood, and the cloth is covered with an assortment of items. A hairbrush lies upside down, clearly thrown down in haste. A fiber-optics lamp sits turned off. Reaching over, you flip the switch, and the flowers inside turn an array of colors and music issues from the lamp. Another music box has string and beads wrapped around the teddy bears sitting on the lid. You pick it up and twist the winder on the bottom. The melody is familiar, but you can’t remember the name. A fairy girl gazes into the mirror above the dresser and back into your own eyes. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings lay in a corner next to the lamp. A single photograph graces the center of the dresser. You pick it up and stare at the glossy picture.
A beautiful 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 almost fills the entire scene. Two teenagers sit together on the hood. The boy has his arm across the girl’s shoulders and she has one arm wrapped around his waist and the other hanging on to his hand near her shoulder. They are smiling and gazing into each other’s eyes. You can almost feel the love radiating between the two of them and into you. You sit heavily on the bed, wrinkling the spotless quilt. A single tear falls on the picture, obscuring the girl’s face. You know that because of that boy and that beautiful, red car, you will never see your daughter again. The music stops, but you don’t hear the silence.

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